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Expectant dad needs to put wife first in line

MONDAY, MAY 2, 2011

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife is six months pregnant and she just signed the two of us up for a childbirth prep class at the hospital where our baby will be born. The problem is that while she’s all excited about the class, I have no interest at all.

I’m excited about becoming a dad, and I want to be there to support her and everything, but I’ve heard from a number of my friends that they didn’t feel particularly welcome in the class and that the entire focus was on the mom-to-be.

Should I just suck it up and go to the class, even though I don’t want to?

A: Suck it up.

Your friends are right. The focus of childbirth prep classes is definitely on the expectant mom. And there’s a good chance that you won’t feel welcome.

But there’s an even better chance that your wife will never forgive you if you bail on the class. In her mind, there’s a direct connection between how much she feels you love her and how much interest you have in being a dad.

And while to you, your excitement level about your impending fatherhood and taking – or not taking – a prep class are completely separate issues, to her they’re one and the same.

One of the problems I’ve had with childbirth education is that it’s entirely too mom-focused. But the reality is that psychologically, your transition to parenthood is just as profound as your wife’s. Your life is going to be turned upside down as much as hers.

One could argue your transition is even harder, because she has so much more social support than you do. Unfortunately, that important bit of information is too often overlooked.

The solution?

• First, slap a smile on your face and make sure you’ve cleared your schedule for the evening classes.

You won’t be alone. In my research, most expectant dads who take prep classes with their partner do so for her.

Interestingly, a recent study in Sweden reached the same conclusion.

• Second, sign up for a dad-only class. I’ve been teaching seminars for expectant dads for years, and I can assure you that having a woman in the room completely changes the dynamics.

Guys aren’t nearly as open about discussing the things they really want to know about, their fears, worries, concerns.

• Third, read everything you can possibly get your hands on about labor and delivery. You need to know what labor looks like, how long it typically lasts, how you can best help your wife through it, what kinds of things typically go wrong, medication options, who all those people are and why they’re running in and out of your room, and again, what you can do if there’s a Plan B or C or D.

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